Common Law Marriage

Authored By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) LSC Funded



A couple that lives together MAY be common law married in Montana. A common law marriage means that you and your partner are married even if you have not gone through a legal ceremony or signed a marriage contract. There three things that must be present for a Montana couple to be common law married. They are:

  1. They must be competent to marry.
  2. They must agree that they are married.
  3. They must live together and present themselves as married.


What does 'competent to marry' mean?

For a couple to be 'competent to marry' two things must exist.

  1. You and your partner must be old enough to be legally married
  2. You can't be married to someone else. Neither can your partner.


How do we agree to be married?

You and your partner must have an agreement with each other. The agreement must be that you are married. You must intend to be married in the future. If there is anything proving that you and your partner agree that you are married, it may help. Proof could include:

  • An oath or pledge of marriage
  • Wearing rings
  • Wearing other jewelry as a sign of a marriage
  • Other decorations or signs of a marriage


How do we present ourselves as married?

You must live together. People should also think of you as a married couple. You should interact with the community as a married couple.


What will the Montana courts use to decide if I am common law married?

  • Whether both partners believe they are married to each other
  • Whether the couple acts as a married couple around friends and family
  • Whether the couple acts as a married couple around the Montana community
  • Whether people believe the couple is married
  • Whether the couple had a ceremony or made a pledge to be married
  • Whether one or both partners wear jewelry or decorations as a sign of the marriage
  • Whether the couple lives together
  • Whether the couple has property together
  • Whether the couple files taxes together


Where can I get more information?


MLSA HelpLine: (800) 666-6899

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Last Review and Update: Feb 20, 2009

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